Parents teach children to be compassionate. Religions extol the virtues of compassion. But I’m not aware of the subject being taught in any business school. That’s a shame (in more ways than one) because compassion is exactly the right frame of mind to bring into business.
A compassionate employee assumes the best of his colleagues and strives to understand their perspectives. He listens carefully before jumping to conclusions about a co-worker’s motives. This avoids miscommunication and conflict. He lends assistance willingly, even proactively, so things get done.
A compassionate manager cares about the well being of her employees. She works hard to address their needs and satisfy their ambitions. Along the way, she creates an environment where people are motivated, creative and productive – a place where it’s easier to attract new talent too.
A compassionate organization truly cares about the challenges faced by its customers and dedicates itself to solving them in creative ways. This distinguishes the organization from its many competitors and yields lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with clients and other business partners.
And, of course, a compassionate organization supports its communities. It gives its time, expertise and financial resources to improve social conditions and the state of its business community. This behavior is closest to the kind of altruism we hope for in individuals though it also has a positive impact on employee morale and corporate reputation.
Given all this, I wonder why more companies don’t list compassion among their cultural values. It certainly embodies many of the traits that organizations promote internally – traits like trust, integrity, learning, taking action, customer focus and collaboration. Maybe in the dog-eat-dog world of business, we’re afraid that compassion would be a sign of weakness.
Yet compassion is a survival skill that has been a source of strength for human beings ever since we first started living in groups. Perhaps it’s time we carried a little of that strength into the workplace too.